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Being Tortured Makes You Evil

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"No one walks away from torture unchanged; not the victim, nor the torturer himself. Never found torture worth the price, myself."
Zaeed Massani, summing this trope up for both sides, Mass Effect 2

Need someone to Face–Heel Turn, but the individual is uncooperative? No worries, just strap them to a table and go to town for a while. That's right, if you inflict enough pain on someone, they WILL be consumed by hatred and turn evil. Somehow. Sometimes handwaved by throwing the word 'brainwashing' around, but more often than not, it comes down to this simple theory: Pain is bad, so if you add enough pain to someone, they become bad!

Though you have to wonder... why does it tend to make them loyal as well? You'd think the newly evil victim might turn their newfound lack of morality toward the guy that did this to them, preferably in a manner similar to what the villain did to them. Stockholm Syndrome might factor in depending on how the torture was inflicted. In some cases, also, the torture was so horrific as to give the torturer a psychological hold on the victim, terrifying them into obedience. Also, sometimes the newly-evil victim isn't loyal to their torturer, but their ordeal has "opened their eyes" to the wretchedness of existence, birthing a Straw Nihilist. However it works, you've now got a baddy with a grudge, lashing out at everyone near (especially if the "good" guys left them to be tortured in the first place).

Still, sometimes, the victim goes further than becoming a Straw Nihilist: feeling disappointed — betrayed even — not only by the "good" guys but by the very ideals they followed earlier, the newly-evil victim may come to respect the views of a torturer. Especially if the torturer points out that he had the same story earlier, and the sole reason for the torture was exactly the "opening of their eyes" to the "true nature of the world." Especially if the torturer suddenly starts showing sympathy precisely at that moment!

As a literary device, it has two handy uses: It counts as a severe Kick the Dog (or worse) for the original villain AND creates a tear-jerking Tragic Villain.

Related to Teach Him Anger, Beware the Nice Ones, Break the Cutie, I Control My Minions Through..., Rape Leads to Insanity, and possibly Who's Laughing Now?. Can often be a Start of Darkness or Freudian Excuse. It can also result in the creation of a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds if done too seriously. A character with Incorruptible Pure Pureness is resistant to this. Rape Portrayed as Redemption is roughly the inverse trope. See also Torture Always Works and its opposite, Torture Is Ineffective. Contrast with Reforged into a Minion, which is similar to this trope, but instead of involving torture, revolves around physically modifying a character (heroic, neutral or otherwise) into a new form so they can serve the antagonist.

Examples (Read at your own risk, as many are spoilers):

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Griffith of Berserk is a marginal example. While his torture did leave him permanently maimed, that by itself wasn't enough. After his rescue by the Band of the Hawk, his heart broke when it became clear they weren't willing to carry around a mute, immobile lump of a former leader, but he thought he still had Casca on his side. It was learning that Casca not only agreed with the rest of the band on his uselessness but was in a relationship with his former protege Guts, that finally sent him past the Despair Event Horizon. The torture just got the ball rolling; it was the aftereffects that sent him over the edge.
  • In the Hentai Bible Black, the Big Bad explains that she wants to sacrifice the hero's Love Interest to the Devil after she herself was the victim of botched human sacrifice years before, and was also gang-raped by the hired goons of the coven's new leader. She's only alive because, after killing the Ax-Crazy coven leader, she agreed to sacrifice a virgin in exchange for not going to hell.
  • Ciel from Black Butler epitomizes this trope, going from an innocent, carefree child to a cold-hearted and icy one after being kidnapped and tortured on his tenth birthday. His dearest wish in life is to inflict merciless pain on those who did it to him.
  • Hansel and Gretel from Black Lagoon are a somewhat unique case in that they're children, and were raised under torture and abuse and implied rape as opposed to being decent people who were warped by it. So here it's less "Torture Makes You Evil" and more "Being Surrounded By Pain and Suffering Practically Since Birth With No Other State Of Being Known To You Other Than Pain Makes You Fucked Up."
  • Riful in Claymore really likes trying to do this, although she isn't especially successful. It works in theory because she's only trying to provoke the Claymores into releasing their full yoma power and becoming Awakened Ones; it's an almost completely physical event and what they want doesn't factor into it. Although Claymores fear awakening more than anything else, once they awaken they tend to immediately find they enjoy the power and freedom from humanity, which justifies this trope. Riful just tends to have bad luck; the first Claymore she tried it on died from the torture, the second worked but turned into an Awakened One too weak to be any use so she killed it and the third was rescued before her mind fully awakened.
  • In Cross Ange, Ange's little sister Sylvia had shown her antagonistic colors after torturing the former in public, though she is evidently a little conflicted over the matter the following night, and goes to her brother Julio for comfort. That is, until she accidentally barges in on Riza thralling Julio in secret, which leads to her being bound by the dragon. After Embryo frees Sylvia and captures Riza, the latter becomes Sylvia's next whipping victim as payback, on top of a list of lesser crimes.
  • Genkaku from Deadman Wonderland was revealed to have been beaten and raped by a group of bullies who hung around the temple when he was younger. It was definitely a contributing factor for making him Ax-Crazy and evil.
  • Basically Gatomon's back story in Digimon Adventure. After years (or decades) of brutal servitude, she's the ruthless lieutenant of a vampiric overlord.
  • Dragon Ball
    • In Dragon Ball Super's adaptation of Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection 'F', Frieza ends up sparing Tagoma and instead uses him as his personal punching bag for four months as training. It's enough to break Tagoma's mind, turning him into a ruthless killer and the perfect candidate for Captain Ginyu to hijack when he comes back into play.
    • In Dragon Ball Z it's implied that Vegeta turned into a cruel and vicious person after growing up under Freiza's psychological abuse.
  • Elfen Lied
    • Most of the Diclonius race in (the necessarily shortened anime form of) Elfen Lied. Though at the very least the evil one that was on her tormentors' side had an Explosive Leash to keep her in check.
    • Tomoo wasn't alone when he bullied Kaede. He led two boys around and they all took pleasure in abusing Lucy physically, verbally, and emotionally. When they restrained Lucy and killed her puppy, this caused Lucy to lose her sanity and murder all of the bullies.
  • Jellal from Fairy Tail turns into a Zeref worshipper after supposedly meeting his spirit while being tortured. It's then downplayed when Ultear reveals she just brainwashed him, though the torture certainly helped bring him down to his lowest point to make it easier.
  • In GTO: The Early Years, Nagisa responded to Akutsu's abuse of her by making a Split Personality, Yasha, to protect her from the trauma. Yasha is a Superpowered Evil Side and Enemy Within who loves Akutsu and tries to kill Ryuji and Eikichi, while Nagisa's normal personality is nice and sweet.
  • In many a Hentai this is turned into "being raped makes you a slut".
  • Higurashi: When They Cry: In a cross-series example, while Rika eventually gets a happy ending, the Rikas of the many alternate universes do not, and they eventually all culminate in Bernkastel, the Big Bad of Umineko: When They Cry.
  • The Hero Laughs While Walking the Path of Vengeance a Second Time basically has this trope as its entire premise, only cranked up to the extreme. Every single one of the main characters started out as a good, sometimes idealistic person, but after all the physical and psychological torture they endured from everybody around them, they all completely snapped and became some of the most sadistic revenge-driven Villain Protagonists ever seen in fiction, inflicting Cruel and Unusual Death and a Fate Worse than Death on everybody who ever wronged them.
  • The supplementary materials to Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam state that Basque Ohm, as a POW after the One Year War, was horrifyingly tortured by the enemy. It's also pretty justified, as he didn't join the side that tortured him — instead, he takes out his rage on Zeon's former civilians.
  • Torturing children into perfect soldiers was the goal of Kinderheim 511 in Monster but they only succeeded in producing monsters. So much so that after Johann turned the compound into the scene of his first real atrocity several of the survivors became his devotees. At least one of the others was a serial killer and Wolfgang Grimmer, while not evil, considered himself a monster.
  • Naruto
    • Not only did Sasuke have his own beloved brother slaughter their entire family he also made Sasuke watch it for what seemed like three days. And after Sasuke was actually able to accept his teammates as his friends Itachi did it again to him for apparently no other reason than wanting him to suffer.
    • Subverted with Kakashi, whose resolve to take Akatsuki down was only strengthened after being tortured for days on end by one of their members.
    • Kurama shows signs of this. He lashes out at humans over the fact that they treat him as a beast, and the seal he was in while inside of Kushina involved having his limbs and tails chained down while he was impaled by a stake. It's also a distinct possibility that this is the same seal that was used to keep him inside Mito, which would mean that he was tortured for the better part of a century.
  • One Piece:
    • Subverted by a certain character: Donquixote Doflamingo went through horrible torture as a child alongside his father and brother, at the hands of an angry mob that vented their rightful hatred of the World Nobles onto the wrong family. You'd think this was the reason he became evil, but it's later revealed he was born evil, and the torture made it even worse. Case in point, Doflamingo's aforementioned brother, Rocinante, turned out to be a much kinder man despite going through the same torture.
    • Implicit in Totland: being born into one of the most powerful pirate families in the world demands a certain measure of ruthlessness, but a look at Pudding and Katakuri in particular shows that abuse is very much common for those who look 'abnormal,' even from Big Mom herself, and they've had to cope by burying their true selves and becoming emotionless and/or Stepford Smilers. Naturally, this leaves little room for anything but coldblooded ruthless efficiency.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica all Magical Girls are subjected to this by a cruel emotional universal Equivalent Exchange counteracting their wishes, and eventually are warped into horrifying, cannibalistic Eldritch Abominations. This also happens to Homura at a wholly different level in Rebellion; even a nigh-unstoppable Magical Girl like herself can only take so much psychological terror, and she endures a shitload of it from the moment she first discovers how Witches come to be to the moment where she usurps Madoka and lashes out royally at Kyubey for many millennia's worth of acts of psychological terrorism against young girls the world over.
  • Shiro Onijima of Pupa (not the anime, of course). As a child he was locked on by a Mad Artist, claiming that love was his inspiration and pain was the purest form of love. The torture he endured involved a lot of "anger and pain," a room full of creepy worms, and the artist painting a picture immediately after stripping him naked and whipping him. Shiro doesn't exactly turn evil, per se, although he starts believing that pain truly is love. And then he became the abusive father that often mutilated his son Utsutsu because Shiro loved his son and wanted to show him that love.
  • Tokyo Ghoul presents this as one of many themes on harmful cycles. It all started when a sadistic Investigator went off the rails and brutalized an imprisoned Ghoul until his victim was driven insane. This Ghoul, Yamori, would emerge from his captivity having taken on his tormentor's personality and become infamous for his hobby of capturing and torturing other Ghouls to death. Eventually, he would capture gentle protagonist Kaneki and subject him to over a week of brutal torture. After turning on his captor and escaping, Kaneki had himself taken on some of the brutal tendencies and Character Tics of Yamori. This started his path from Nice Guy to an increasingly brutal and ruthless Anti-Hero.
  • Transformers: Energon's incarnation of Megatron attempted this on the Autobot Inferno. Megatron tortured Inferno for information and his own amusement. When Inferno still wouldn't break, Megatron tried forcibly converting him to the Decepticon cause. Although Inferno was eventually rescued by the other Autobots it looked like he might turn on them. In the end Inferno fought off the effects of Megatron's influence and died.
  • Konuma Ryuuko of Wolf Guy - Wolfen Crest. She's a nymphomaniac middle schooler with what appears to be profound psychological damage from repeated rapes in her past, which made her a nihilistic sociopath.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • Years of child abuse by his stepfather turned Seto Kaiba into the cold Jerkass that he is.
    • Slightly less extreme example, but after the shift from the horror genre of the initial manga, creator Kazuki Takashi implied that Yami Yugi was aware of the 3,000 years passing in the Puzzle, which was responsible for his single-minded pursuit of punishing anyone who hurt Yugi after being initially released. He grows out of it.
    • Marik Ishtar was born into a family that guarded the tomb of the Pharoah Atem for generations. As a child, Marik was subjected to a Tomb Keeper initiation ceremony which involved carving the hieroglyphs from the pharaoh's tomb onto his back with a hot knife. This birthed a hatred of the pharaoh and a desire to free his family from their servitude to him at any cost as well as created Marik's dark side, Yami Marik.
    • Played with in regards to Mai. The Dark Game that Marik subjects her to in Battle City certainly traumatizes her, but it is Dartz's taking advantage of this trauma to prey on her vulnerability and using the power of the Orichalcos to enslave people that causes her to join his cult.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX:
    • Done to Kaiser Ryo... except we never learn what the villain's motive was for doing it to him! Unlike the Big Bad, he was neither a Cult leader nor soul stealer and didn't really have anything to gain from corrupting a teenager. Hell Kaiser isn't traditionally "evil", but he did become a much more vicious, ruthless character, as well as using the Underground's Electric Torture devices against other duelists.
      • He then tries this on his own little brother, and might have succeeded had Judai not intervened.
    • All-Loving Hero Judai later proves that a character with Incorruptible Pure Pureness is, in fact, not immune from being driven evil by pain.
    • Ten years of agony at the hands of the Light of Destruction drove Yubel completely insane. Specifically, the only way their mind could cope with the torture their beloved Judai had accidentally inflicted upon them was to become convinced that love and pain are actually the same thing. Season 3 is caused by their desire to return the favour on their return.

    Asian Animation 
  • BoBoiBoy: Downplayed. Adu Du intends to torture BoBoiBoy Lightning to extract info on his grandfather's recipe, just to find that Probe had turned the torture room into a party room to celebrate the villain's victory. Adu Du pops a balloon in anger and discovers BoBoiBoy's globophobia, and opts to exploit his fear as a means of torture instead. BoBoiBoy Lightning snaps in rage, but due to his worsening memory from his prolonged Triple Split, he easily believes the villains are his friends throwing a party for him, and later follows the villains in attacking the good guys. His memory and good allegiance eventually return after Probe accidentally exclaims BoBoiBoy's catchphrase.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: Black Mask was already a murderous gangster, but when he was lit on fire and left for dead, the resulting burns and further disfigurements got him interested in the subject of torture.
  • In Batman: Last Knight on Earth, the original Batman turns evil after a mob of worshippers of evil had tortured and mutilated him almost to death.
  • In Captain America, Crossbones uses torture on his brainwashed girlfriend Sin to bring her back to herself. It worked. Writer has to survive an attack of angry Moral Guardians, pissed off because right after being tortured, Sin has sex with her oppressor.
  • Black Mask tortured Catwoman's sister, Maggie, forcing her to watch as he tortured her husband and force-fed her pieces of him. After breaking out of her catatonic state, she's become Sister Zero, a religiously-motivated villain who believes that her sister's soul is in thrall to a "cat demon," and she's going to "exorcise" it even if she has to kill Selina to do so.
  • Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy sees this as part of its backstory as this time, the Jackal is Ben Reilly, having been resurrected, then killed and resurrected 27 more times.
  • Cinder from Deathstroke's Titans was sexually abused by a supervillain called Nursery Crime when she was a child, sometime after her entire family died in an explosion. With her heat powers, she goes after child molesters and rapists, and is also suicidal because her powers prevent her from dying.
  • Two-Edge from ElfQuest is the product of an insane female elf and a troll she once seduced. He grew up neglected and tortured by his mother, and his father died when he was young, murdered in front of him by his mother. His mind is broken pretty quickly and he spends most of the series as a villain until Leetah finally manages to heal him after approximately 15000 years.
  • The origin of the Guardians of the Galaxy villain Talonar. He's actually Nova's missing brother Robbie who remained unaware of the final outcome of The Thanos Imperative, outside of "we won." He traveled to Xandar alone to try to jumpstart the Nova Force but is instead captured and tortured for information by members of the Fraternity of Raptors. They later lock him into a helmet which isolates his senses and severely slows his sense of time making minutes seem like years. This coupled with his lack of knowledge of Richard's supposed death made him feel like his brother and allies abandoned him. When he was given the choice to either die with honor as a member of the Nova Corps or exact revenge as a Raptor, Robbie chose the latter.
  • The Joker attempts this on Commissioner Gordon in The Killing Joke in true dramatic Joker style, complete with a Circus of Fear and an annoyingly catchy show tune. It fails.
  • An almost literal example in the Superhero/Police drama Powers, where Deena is being repeatedly zapped by the energy powers of a man called "The Bug." His powers are apparently both contagious and addictive since he plans on getting her hooked on it, but she jams his hands down his throat to blow him up and absorb the rest of his powers, proceeds to melt the rest of the gang, and has secretly murdered at least a couple of people since then; the powers seem to be having an effect on her mind because when she fried her ex-boyfriend who stabbed her in the back, she entered a fugue-like state and didn't emotionally react until well after she had disposed of his body.
  • It's shown throughout Star Wars that torture is the fastest way to turn a Jedi to The Dark Side, as it's a good way to crack a Jedi's emotional control, getting them angry and setting them at the top of the slippery slope. In Star Wars: Legacy, Darth Krayt's life was already a complete mess but getting captured and tortured by the Vong was the last straw before he decided to share his suffering with the entire galaxy.
  • Transformers
    • Unicron does this in order to acquire the services of Nemesis Prime; he finds a dead Optimus Prime somewhere in the multiverse, clones the corpse, and then horrifically tortures the clone for several thousand years. It works.
    • Unicron goes the extra mile. He tortures his thralls to the point where merely existing is unbearable agony to them. Which makes his philosophy appealing merely because it'd be an end to such pain.
  • In Transformers: More than Meets the Eye, it was eventually revealed that Megatron was originally an Actual Pacifist who turned to violence after being arrested by the corrupt police force after a Bar Brawl and being savagely beaten while in custody.
  • The Walking Dead: Michonne doesn't exactly turn evil, per se, after the Governor repeatedly beats and rapes her, although she does turn into a bitter, burned-out husk of a human being in a remarkably short span of time. It's worth noting that, whenever presented with the opportunity to actually kill the douchebag, she instead non-fatally, but painfully, wounds him; whether or not this is out of a simple desire for brutal revenge and making him suffer as he made her, or a subconscious want to keep him alive because of Stockholm Syndrome is left up to the reader to decide.
  • In X-Men Noir: Mark of Cain, Thomas Halloway is kept in "Project: Wideawake" by Professor Xavier as long as he withholds information from him. Project: Wideawake employs a mixture of blindingly bright lights and deafening sirens to deprive the subject of sleep. After about a week of the treatment, Tommy snaps. He starts acting like, and insisting he be referred to as, his dead twin brother Robert — a sadistic lowlife. He's faking.

    Fan Works 
  • Catarina Claes MUST DIE!: The relentless bullying Henrietta suffered in her previous life left her with some serious mental issues. When reincarnated into the world of Sorcier and confronted with the woman she had made a stand-in for all her bullies, she first ignores all evidence that Catarina is not the vile woman she believes, then attempts to murder Catarina when her expected death doesn't materialize.
  • Child of the Storm:
    • The classic case of the Winter Soldier, who suffered about seventy years of repeated Mind Rape, the ante being upped every time he showed signs of straying from his programming. Also, Natasha, though marginally less severely. In both cases, it was by the Red Room, and in the Winter Soldier's case, latterly by HYDRA as well.
    • In the sequel, this happens to Harry, also at the hands of the Red Room. Brutal psychic torture and an escape plan that went wrong resulted in the Red Son, the second, upgraded iteration of the Winter Soldier, a Living Weapon who helped subjugate half a continent. Harry getting control of his body back only made it worse, resulting in his snapping and taking revenge as the Dark Phoenix. And even after he's talked down, coming back to himself, his horrific PTSD means that he's a much sharper, more bitter person than before, with a terrifying Hair-Trigger Temper.
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: Explains why torture turns prisoners to the torturer's side in Dungeon Keeper setting by having the dungeon hearts be a minor Mind-Control Device with Keeper minions.
  • Poor Ezra Bridgerin Ezra Lost is revealed to have fallen victim to this trope around the end of the story. Luckily, he's not beyond the point of no return yet.
  • In The Fifth Act, Cloud was already growing unstable when he started to believe that the timeline didn't change despite his efforts. Being experimented on by Hojo, unbalanced by the truth of his origins, and seeing Sephiroth burn down the Shinra Mansion allows Jenova to possess Cloud in Nibelheim.
  • The Hands Of Fate Invasion here: On Earth-2, Metahumans have been officially declared enemies of the state and stripped of their rights. Those captured are locked up without a trial, rendered sterile (the men through chemical treatments, the women have their ovaries removed), and brutally experimented on. Unsurprisingly, once Zoom frees them they quickly rally to his "cause" and start fighting back against a society that has abused them.
  • One of the Elseworld chapters of Hunters of Justice, adapting the aforementioned Batman: Last Knight on Earth sees this and the transformation into Omega befall Ruby Rose instead of Batman.
  • In Jimmy's Visit With Dr. Franklin Ebon torturing Johnny, Jimmy's twin brother to death and forcing Jimmy to watch is what caused Jimmy to attempt a mass shooting.
  • In Misunderstandings, while "evil" might be stretching it, the ponies fear that the human protagonist, Peter might fall under this trope. His first encounter with ponies was being captured by ponies and put on display in a Circus of Fear as a mysterious monster, and during his downtime, the ringmaster, Big Top regularly abused him and the other "exhibits." One of the other creatures held prisoner, a minotaur, plays this trope straighter, as he tries to kill Peter when he escapes and tries to kill their tormentor. Twilight attributes this behavior to something called Stockgroom Syndrome.
  • A New Chance for Adventure. The way Slave Pokemon are created. Since birth, they are conditioned into blindly obeying the one who holds their Pokeball. By their adulthood, they have all emotion stamped out, and will obey their trainers toward any extreme.
  • In Popped, Pinkie Pie develops some serious PTSD after being rescued from Pokey.
  • A Shadow of the Titans: Seems to be what the Joker is aiming for when he carves up Jade's face, having deduced that Jade is not a true villain.
  • In Stray, part of the Antihero's backstory involves an attempt by the setting's Ancient Conspiracy to invoke this. The Ancient Conspiracy didn't want to risk their Tyke Bomb spy/assassins developing any inconvenient attachments, so they attempted to instill sociopathic tendencies in their future operatives by means of an abusive upbringing. It doesn't entirely work — Adamska can be ruthless, and he has the potential to be a lot worse — but he is capable of genuine emotional attachment.
  • Temporal Anomaly provides an inverted example in Three: before the event, she was a Psychopathic Womanchild of the highest order who had an extremely dark obsession with dolls, to the point that she willingly and gleefully preformed horrific and painful experiments on her own citizens of the Land of Forests to turn them into all manners of abominations. When she was defeated, Sougo specifically had her go through a torture session that had her feel and experience what her victims went through. The aftermath had Three go through an Heel Realization and becoming The Atoner.

    Films — Animation 
  • Robin in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker was turned into a miniature, nearly catatonic replica of the Joker after weeks of being drugged and tortured by the Joker. It didn't really stick since, when faced with an order to kill Batman, he instead killed the Joker, but it took years to recover and eventually led to his brain being hijacked by a secretly implanted microchip imprinted with the Joker's personality.
  • Predacons Rising: Megatron found himself on the receiving end of this trope courtesy of Unicron after his corpse was revived and used as a puppet by Unicron while his spirit was being brutally tormented. However, this trope is inverted because Megatron had died in the final battle for Earth with the Autobots and originally hoped that Unicron would help him take revenge on them; in fact, his torture actually spurred a Heel Realization and he disbanded the Decepticons after he was freed.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Bourne Ultimatum, we get glimpses of the induction process that Treadstone (and presumably Blackbriar) agents undergo. Specifically, Jason is told to murder a man, sitting in a room with a bag over his head, and every time he refuses, Jason has a bag put on his head and is severely punished, vis-à-vis solitary confinement and waterboarding among other methods, until he finally breaks and kills the man. To twist the knife further, it seems that Jason, who volunteered, initially thought that the test was to not kill the man.
  • Big Bad Carson Dyle in Charade was abandoned by his wartime comrades after being badly wounded, and suffered months in a prison camp without any treatment. After he gets out, he's only living to get his hands on the money they stole together.
  • In The Dark Knight, Harvey Dent becomes Two-Face via an extremely well-applied version of this; after killing Rachael Dawes and burning off half his face, Joker comes to Dent's bedside with a gun and tells him that since the system couldn't prevent those things, he should leave things to chance. He then gives Dent his coin and suggests a game of Russian Roulette...
  • In the film Flesh+Blood (1985), the innocent virgin Damsel in Distress gets kidnapped by a group of bandits and gang-raped. She then joins their crew and merrily takes part in their excursions. ... Except she was never all that (sexually) innocent and participated out of a combination of Stockholm Syndrome and a desire to avoid further abuse by fitting in — so, a relatively realistic application of the trope.
  • In Frankenstein 1970, it is strongly implied that is the torture he received at the hands of the Nazis that tipped Victor over the edge into obsession and insanity.
  • The Cenobites from Hellraiser were once human, but years of torture in Hell have turned them into monsters. Rather literally.
  • In Just Cause, this happened to Bobby Earl Ferguson, a promising young Cornell University student who is accused of kidnapping and rape. While he eventually was proven innocent of this particular crime, prior to this, the case's young prosecutor, Laurie Armstrong, had him remanded without bail in order to make a name for herself, even though he had no prior record. While in jail, the other inmates, not knowing all the facts in the case, assaulted Bobby, beating him within an inch of his life, and castrating him. In addition, despite being cleared, the arrest and accusations caused Cornell to revoke Bobby's scholarship and expel him. Traumatized, mutilated, and with all his hopes of having a decent future destroyed, Bobby developed a deep grudge against Laurie and plotted a dark vengeance against her.
  • In Lawrence of Arabia, Thomas Lawrence becomes an Ax-Crazy, ruthless Blood Knight after having been tortured by the Turks... as a deserter.
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes: Koba, Koba, Koba. The following decade just makes him worse, and he's willing to start a war because he can't let go of the memory of being a test subject.
  • The point of Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, given that refusing to be turned evil means being gruesomely tortured and executed, although none of the victims know this.
  • Saw: This happens to several characters in the sequels. Most prominently, Amanda and Lawrence.
  • In Skyfall, Silva was captured and tortured for five months, to the point that he tried to commit suicide only for his Cyanide Pill to end up horribly disfiguring him but leaving him alive. What really drove him over the edge, though, was the realization that M betrayed him and left him to this fate. The pain he suffered because of her is the source of his Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • In Super 8, it's eventually revealed that the monster is an alien who's been experimented on and tortured by the military for decades, to the point that it views all humans as threats and is willing to kill them all.
  • It's all but stated in The Suicide Squad that Starro the Conqueror was a docile creature content drifting in space until thirty years of torturous expirementation by The Thinker wiped it into a vengeful monster.
  • V for Vendetta: For given quantities of Evil, we have this back and forth:
  • X-Men Film Series
    • This sums up Erik Lehnsherr's (who later becomes Magneto) backstory in X-Men: First Class. The torture he endured involved a lot of "anger and pain", a room full of creepy sharp instruments, and there was a flash of something akin to sadistic dentistry, but it's the emotional torment that seems to have broken him.
    • Implied in Mystique's backstory told in X-Men: Days of Future Past. After assassinating Trask to avenge her fellow mutants, she is taken captive and experimented on, with her DNA being used to create the Bad Future Sentinels. The experience likely resulted in her transformation into the remorseless killer we see in the original trilogy.
    • Deadpool (2016): This is a possible explanation for Ajax and Angel choosing to work for the organization that tortured them into mutation.
    • Deadpool 2: Russell spends the majority of the movie filled with murderous rage towards the Orphanage of Fear he came from and its staff, particularly its headmaster, who tortured him for being a mutant. Cable reveals that Russell takes his fiery revenge on the headmaster and then becomes addicted to killing, becoming a psychopathic murderer in the future; he's there to kill Russell before he can do that. Deadpool manages to stop Russell from going down this path.

  • Nineteen Eighty-Four — you only need fear and pain to break a rebel into an obedient citizen who finds Happiness in Slavery. Questionable. Winston's torture doesn't really turn him evil, per se; he just becomes a 'good citizen'. In fact, part of the means used to break his self-esteem and conviction is reminding him that as a rebel he promised to do anything, commit any atrocity, in the name of the Brotherhood of Freedom, the possibly non-existent La Résistance. You could maybe argue that obedience is evil, but whether that's true or not is kind of the point of the book ("Is a lunatic a minority of one?"). Either way, the torture and its effects are definitely not hand waved but explored in great detail (about half the book).
  • ALiCE (2014): The abuse and experimentation that Michael was put through made him go insane and start doing terrible things, though he tries to justify it as his victims deserving it. There's also some hints that despite the Laser-Guided Amnesia he inflicts on everyone, the other characters are gradually remembering some of what happens and are becoming more vicious because of it.
  • In Chosen, the Antichrist starts out as an Anti Anti Christ... until his "dad" and some demons torture and rape him for several years. Then he becomes a proper Antichrist. Somehow.
  • Questioned in The Cursed by Dave Duncan, though not exactly lampshaded. The response is that this does indeed work if you don't only use torture, but combine it with a system of mental conditioning (the nature of which is never actually explained.)
  • Played with in Date A Live. For a Spirit to Inverse, they must experience absolute despair. Westcott believes in using torture to achieve this. He proposes doing this to Tohka, though it's rendered moot when Shidou is seemingly killed in front of her and she Inverses anyway. When he did this successfully to Nia, she didn't Inverse and simply stopped responding to anything. Westcott therefore decided to apply a block on her memories of being tortured and then released her. As it turns out, Nia had lost faith in humanity prior to being captured and tortured (due to her omniscience letting her see all the ugly parts of humans), but she regains it after being freed. After this happens, Westcott orders the memory block be removed. The sudden return of all of the memories of suffering, combined with her new positive outlook, succeeds in making her Inverse.
  • Thomas Raith in the eleventh book of The Dresden Files, is hideously tortured by the Skinwalker. While he had spent the previous books finding ways to sate his hunger without harming anyone, this event makes him reconsider whether it's worth it. In his next appearance, he's as good and friendly as he had been, but still decidedly well-fed. In the following book, he has apparently undergone a sort of hunger strike/Heroic BSoD after Harry's death.
  • Happens to several characters in The First Law, although torture doesn't always make them evil in a direct cause and effect:
    • Inquisitor Glokta, one of the main protagonists, was a dashing Master Swordsman and all-around "golden boy" until he was captured in battle and horribly tortured, leaving him a total physical wreck. After the war, he became a Torture Technician, and while amusing to read about and known for occasionally petting the dog, he's still cruel and generally devoid of empathy. Somewhat subverted in that he wasn't really a great guy prior to the torture, so in a way, it just brought out the "real him". Glokta's example is deconstructed as the story goes on; he was raised to be a soldier and nothing else, and when he was crippled, he had no other skills to fall back on... but he did have lengthy experience in knowing how to break a man, making his turn to the Inquisition quite sensible. He's also unique in that he becomes more compassionate instead of less through the trilogy, making use of Exact Words and Bothering by the Book to spare the innocent as far as he can. This is most notable when he marries Ardee and claims her unborn child, Jezal's bastard, is his. This effectively saves both their lives; he gets away with it because he had promised to "deal with" the "threat to the state" they posed, and even then knows he is skating on terribly thin ice.
    • Salem Rews, a Big Fun merchant and former friend of Glokta is brought before him, and Glotka has him beaten and threatened with torture to get him to confess to largely trumped-up charges. Rews is then sent to a penal colony, and shortly after arriving, is horribly burned in an accident. He eventually comes back for vengeance on Glokta but is persuaded to become Glotka's partner and in a later book, he's shown as the superior officer of the guy who ran the penal colony in which he was once a prisoner.
    • Shivers, a protagonist of the spin-off novel Best Served Cold is a Barbarian Hero trying to be a good person. Over the course of the book, he becomes increasingly morally compromised, and after he's captured and has his eye burnt out, he becomes a vicious Blood Knight and pulls a Face–Heel Turn. However, he mellows out a bit in later books.
  • He Who Fights With Monsters: Variant. The soul is inviolable; the only way for even the most powerful being to breach it is with consent. However, they can torture you until you're willing to give consent just to make the pain stop. The Builder likes to put Star-Seeds into people, which painfully transmute their bodies and give great power if they are accepted—but will also hollow out most of the victim's personality and turn them into a copy of the Builder.
  • Horus Heresy has Konrad Curze try to invoke this on Vulkan — Curze believes that every man is evil at heart and he intends to prove it on his brother. Ultimately, it fails, but Vulkan goes completely insane.
  • The Hunger Games: Johanna, a survivor of the Hunger Games, wants to see Capitol children get slaughtered in Hunger Games, and more specifically, President Snow's 12 year old granddaughter. Peeta was tortured and brainwashed by the Capital in the novel Mockingjay. While he wasn't exactly evil, his vision of reality was so screwed that he tried to kill Katniss.
  • Averted in the Hurog novels with a couple of characters, but most notably Oreg, who spent his "life" magically bound to generations of owners of the eponymous castle Hurog, not all of whom were kind to him. There was no corrupting him — he is even nice to Ward, who looks like his father. Then there is Ward, who didn't become one bit evil, even though his father was abusive and at least once almost killed him.
  • The Immortal Rules: This seems to be Sarren's Freudian Excuse for why he wants Kanin and any other vampire Kanin has made dead. Though how much of a stable and well-adjusted vampire he was before suffering cruel and unusual experiments in hopes that vampire blood held the key to saving the human race, is up for debate.
  • Murtagh from the Inheritance Cycle started out as Eragon's friend and well-intentioned antihero, but his capture and Mind Rape (and who knows what else) at the hands of Galbatorix turned him bitter, power-hungry, and rather unstable. Galbatorix ensured his loyalty by using Murtagh's true name (which gives total control to the one who uses it) and forcing him to swear various oaths that he was magically bound to follow. Once freed, Murtagh seems to be a basically okay guy again, so you decide if he was actually bad.
  • Legacy of the Force:
    • Jacen Solo does this to Ben Skywalker, in an attempt to turn him to the dark side, and make him his first apprentice.
    • Speaking of Jacen Solo, his time as a prisoner of the torture-happy Yuuzhan Vong is widely held to have contributed to his own eventual turn to the dark side.
  • Volkov, Russian chief vampire from Alexander Yang's Midnight World series, became a victim of an extremely unjust court at a very young age. He was cruelly tortured to extract the evidence against his father and almost died when his Master showed him the way to survival and revenge.
  • In The Mouse Watch, Cyborg Mad Scientist rat Dr. Thornpaw was "shaped by pain" due to the horrific Animal Testing he endured, and now he wants Revenge on all humanity.
  • On The Uses Of Torture, a short story by Piers Anthony, has the protagonist, who is already evil and routinely uses torture on others, volunteer to be tortured by aliens in order to get them to negotiate a treaty. He ends up impressing them so much they give him a seat on their ruling council, but he has become so mentally corrupted he no longer cares about anything human.
  • Neil Gaiman's short story "Other People" in which a businessman is tortured by a demon, first physically with two hundred and eleven different devices, then mentally with all his lies and misdeeds and their consequences over and over until he can no longer lie his way out of them. When it is done, the demon is gone, and a businessman comes in...
  • FitzChivalry toys with this in the third trilogy of the Realm of the Elderlings. He notes that he was once tortured to death (although it didn't stick), and it left him with an occasional sadistic streak; his fight-or-flight response got ramped up, and although he always wants to run...
  • Folgrim of Redwall: The Legend of Luke suffered a variation. He was tortured and blinded in one eye by vermin, and this caused him to become insanely violent and unstable, but his violence was directed toward vermin specifically. Since they're Always Chaotic Evil the good guys have no problem with him killing them, but when he starts to eat them...
    "Nice fire, I likes a good fire!"
  • The Scorpion Signal, an espionage novel by Adam Hall. The protagonist Quiller is sent to track down a Rogue Agent who was tortured by the KGB, and nearly gets killed because he fails to consider just how much torture can change a man. Like making him willing to kill a former friend when he interferes in his plot to assassinate the Soviet Premier. To a professional intelligence agent being tortured is Nothing Personal — Quiller fails to consider just how much It's Personal for the person being tortured.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • The Silmarillion:
      • It is revealed that the original orcs in J. R. R. Tolkien's Universe were created thousands of years ago by Morgoth, Middle-earth's version of Satan, who tortured the first elves he captured endlessly until they went mad and became monsters. Tolkien was rather ambivalent about this detail; his later notes made it clear that he was having second thoughts about the origin of the orcs, and the elf origin raised a number of thorny questions about his mythology. For example, would dead orcs go to the Halls of Mandos, where normal elves are taken after death, or would they share the fate of Men? The deeply Catholic Tolkien was also conflicted over the concept of Morgoth (the Devil) creating an Always Chaotic Evil race of beings without free will, doomed to being evil without possibility of repentance and redemption. His desire to work out this "orc problem" is one of the reasons why he didn't publish The Silmarillion before his death.
      • Averted with Maedhros: his being tortured (hung by his right hand from a cliff for a couple of years) only made him more badass. Though he did become something of a villain, it was for different reasons.
      • Also averted with Húrin. After watching what Morgoth's curse did to his family, did he set out on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge? No, he killed exactly one dwarf — Mîm, who betrayed his son to the orcs and was arguably asking for it. Then he bitched out his son's foster father and left. In the version published in The History of Middle-earth, though, he sparks a civil war among the Haladin and orchestrates the death of their chief and his remaining family members out of the belief that they failed to protect his children and thrust his wife out to die. He then ends up killing the Haladin who followed him in a petty fight over treasure and is only stopped from causing more damage by Melian telling him that he isn't helping anyone. Then he kills himself. This might actually be a case of being tortured makes you crazy instead, which would certainly be justified after what happened to him — it's not that he now revels in harming the innocent, he's just filled with rage and bitterness over what happened to his family, and Morgoth twisted his perceptions so that he blames everyone who ever interacted with them.
      • A straight example would be Maeglin — although he was definitely jealous of Tuor beforehand, it was only being captured and tortured (or the threat of it at least) by Morgoth that caused him to spill the location of Gondolin and try to kill Tuor and his son, Eärendil.
    • In The Lord of the Rings, Gollum was evil to begin with, but after being tortured by Sauron, he became worse.
  • Ben Mikaelsen used this to forge a Villain Protagonist for his work Touching Spirit Bear: Cole Matthews would've been a good boy hadn't his father been so abusive.
  • Inverted in A Song of Ice and Fire with Theon Greyjoy. Previously a definite Smug Snake, the brutal torture he receives at the hands of the series' resident Bastard Bastard leaves him frail both physically and mentally and, while not a good person, leagues away from the outright villain he'd been before. And it's only after all this that he commits his first truly selfless act by saving Jeyne Poole.
  • Star Wars:
    • In Dark Disciple, Jedi Master Quinlan Vos is captured by Count Dooku and falls to the Dark Side after months of torture and psychological manipulation, becoming a Double Agent.
    • A.C. Crispin wrote The Han Solo Trilogy, which covers Han's life from his teenage years up to the start of the first Star Wars movie. Many characters from stories that take place later in Han's life appear in this series, one of whom betrays Han for money in Dark Empire. In Crispin's books, we find that he used to be a decent man, as good a friend of Han's as Lando was. Then he got captured, tortured, and crippled for life. In the third book, we see that the experience has made him quite bitter. When Lando and Han visit him to see if there's anything they can do to help, at first he doesn't acknowledge them. Finally, he gives them a look that tells them to get out and leave him alone. Perhaps he wasn't quite evil at the time, but he was certainly starting down the path.
  • The Stormlight Archive.
  • Suspicion:
    • According to Dr. Edith Marlok, she’d been once a faithful young communist who believed in a better world. After being sent to concentration camp Stutthof and working with Big Bad Dr. Emmenberger she became a cynical, indifferent, misanthropic morphine addict.
    • This is averted however with Gulliver, who was also tortured by Emmenberger and had been in many concentration camps but became a Vigilante Man and Nazi Hunter instead.
  • Mord Sith from the Sword of Truth books.They take the sweetest, most eager-to-please girls at a very young age, torture them elaborately and horrifically, physically and psychologically, until they will do anything for their teacher; until they become so used to pain that they actually get off on using the weapon which causes anyone it touches — including the wielder — unendurable pain; then they are forced to watch as their mother is tortured to death, and then to torture their own father to death. Oh, and it's considered commendable if they thereafter avenge themselves on their masters by torturing them to death. Anyone who is pushed that far without dying is bound to go a bit insane. It also probably helps that the people Mord-Sith come from have grown up worshiping and learning blind obedience to the Mord-Sith's master. As terrifying as the prospect is, the girls chosen have already had it hammered into them that this is a holy calling and their destined fate, and are partially picked for a lack of innate resistance and a natural desire to please. Stockholm Syndrome is far more powerful when you start out seeing your captors as compassionate teachers and ideal role models.
  • X-Wing Series:
    • Ysanne Isard, Director of Imperial Intelligence, has a secret prison called the Lusankya. She captures people, brainwashes them, and turns them into unwitting agents, letting them free afterwards to go back to the New Republic, completely unaware of what's happened to them until they find themselves doing her will. The process of converting people is never detailed in full, but it does involve torture. Tycho Celchu went through this and remembers being in that prison when he's let go. When he reports back he's suspected to be one of the unwitting agents even though he remembers being there. But he was immune.
    • it's also interesting, in that 1. It's shown that there's more to it than torture, including simulations, drugs, and such. (They start getting rewarded for being evil/doing as the torturer says)...and it's made a point that there are a LARGE number of people it doesn't work on...who are being kept in the prison.
    • In Rebel Force a different Imperial has a method for turning people into emotionless assassins, which involves torturing them vigorously while he wasn't in sight to induce Stockholm Syndrome, then erasing all of their old memories. It's suggested but left up in the air that his best assassin, X-7, may have used to be one of the heroes of Last of the Jedi. Late in the series, he gets his hands on Luke Skywalker, but Luke resists and plays along.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24 used a more realistic version of this: Season 3 Big Bad Stephen Saunders was on the same team with Jack Bauer that went into Kosovo for a covert mission; Jack was assumed to be the only member of the team who survived, and Stephen was left for dead. His disillusionment at being abandoned to the enemy is the driving force behind his actions in Season 3.
  • Though nearly all vampires in Buffy the Vampire Slayer are evil, Drusilla is more fond of slow torture than most, probably because of the way she was tortured extensively by her sire Angelus before she was turned. Her torture also made her very, very unhinged.
  • Charmed:
    • Gideon's torture of Wyatt in an alternate timeline turned him evil. Fortunately, they fixed the problem.
    • It's implied that this happened to Christy, Billie's sister since she was kidnapped by demons when she was 6 years old.
  • The Colbert Report once used this in a bit of circular Strawman Political Insane Troll Logic: if you're mistaken for a terrorist who hates America and consequently imprisoned in Gitmo and subjected to Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, you'll soon hate America — and therefore, we'll have to imprison and torture you!
  • Doctor Who:
    • Being tortured and mutilated by South American natives for trespassing on their territory is what drove George Cranleigh mad and turned him into a murderer in "Black Orchid".
    • In "Heaven Sent", the Doctor is imprisoned in a castle that is really, in his words, a "bespoke torture chamber" in the immediate wake of Clara Oswald's Senseless Sacrifice in the previous episode, which means his anguish and anger are extremely fresh. Completely alone save for a monster with a Touch of Death he can only evade or temporarily halt, he is tormented physically and psychologically all in an effort by his captors to extract information about the Hybrid warrior of a Gallifreyan prophecy from him. Determined not to reveal everything he knows, he winds up finding another way out by dying and recreating himself billions of times over billions of years. He emerges from this as The Unfettered and a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds ready to grab a gun and use it in "Hell Bent", determined to bring Clara back from death by any means, even if the universe is destroyed in the process. While his anguish would make him dangerous in any case, if not for what he undergoes in "Heaven Sent", he probably would not resort to such extreme measures and violations of his principles. The good news is that he stops short of crossing the Moral Event Horizon and chooses to return to his best self by way of setting up the Bittersweet Ending.
  • In Firefly, this can happen to you at the hands of the Reavers. Even though the original Reavers were created by a drug that made them go berserk, they can produce exactly the same effects in other people simply by making people watch them do their Reaver thing. Apparently, it's a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
  • Homeland: Whether or not this applies to Nicholas Brody is an important and recurring plot point.
  • In House of Cards (US), Claire seemed to place more blame on herself for being raped years ago than on the rapist himself.
    "Every time I think of her, pinned down like that, I strangle her, Francis, so she doesn't strangle me."
  • Kamen Rider Saber doesn't go with evil in so much as a Well-Intentioned Extremist who went mad from revelation with emphasis on the tragic part. Kento was subjected to visions of countless Bad Futures while imprisoned inside Kurayami. Seeing his friends killed and the world destroyed over and over turned the kind team backbone person into a whispering Empty Shell hellbent on averting those futures even if it means fighting his friends, ruining their lives, and potentially endangering everyone and everything. They tried to reason with him, but nothing worked. It's no wonder considering he can barely look at them without being reminded of all the times he lost them, which in turn reassures him he does what's best for everyone.
  • Legend of the Seeker loves this trope, much like the books it was based on. The Mord'Siths' strength and devotion to eeeevil comes from having the good tortured out of them as kids. And it works on Cara again when she's tortured back to the dark side by Darken Rahl.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: The Moriondor, first race of Orcs, are former Elves from Beleriand, enslaved and tortured by Morgoth until they lost their minds.
  • Lost Girl: Bo's mother after being tortured by the Dark Fae. Though this overlaps with being tortured makes you crazy.
  • In the second season of The Musketeers, quite a lot of Rochefort's more deranged behaviour is blamed on being tortured for years as a prisoner of the Spanish. However, it's strongly implied that he was pretty bad before that, and it's reported that Richelieu deliberately abandoned him to the Spanish because he considered him to be mentally unhinged.
  • Allan-a-Dale in the BBC's version of Robin Hood was captured by Guy of Gisborne and tortured into becoming The Mole. There were a few mitigating factors including the fact that Allan was already dissatisfied with the lifestyle of an outlaw, but when he's discovered, he uses the torture as his excuse.
  • Seven Days; one episode centered around a Presidential candidate whom time-traveler Frank Parker rescued from an assassination attempt. The candidate offered Frank a position in his campaign team. Later, Frank learned that the candidate had been tortured by Chinese soldiers during the Vietnam War. As President, he planned to destroy a US Navy vessel, implicate China and declare war, with the ultimate goal of killing the population of China.
  • Spartacus War Of The Damned: Features a fairly realistic version. Naevia spent some time as a Sex Slave to various Romans and spends much of Vengeance as a Broken Bird. In War of the Damned, she comes off as an Axe-Crazy Dark Action Girl wanting to slaughter all Romans, even perfectly innocent civilians and children.
  • In Stargate Atlantis, the Wraith can do this to turn the boldest humans into lawful servants. They did this to three Satedan friends of Ronon and later even Ronon himself. It also helps that the victims become addicted to the enzyme used in feeding, which makes the one addicted exercise extremely poor judgement.
  • Supernatural:
    • Hell works along this premise. To the extent that once they torture away enough of your previous identity you become a demon, which in this setting are Always Chaotic Evil, although while all demons are stated to have been once human it's unclear whether all the damned make it all the way to demon. Dean takes thirty years of torture in the season break he spends in Hell, before he cracks and starts torturing other souls, and enjoying it because it's not being tortured. He blames himself for this intensely. Also notable, they gave him to Hell's chief torturer for most of it; he's a tough cookie, but he gives himself no credit. Part of the transformation may be when you start torturing others. Dean at least claims this is because if you start torturing others, they stop torturing you. And by that point he just desperately wanted the pain to end.
      Dean: If I go in there and do it, I won't be the same person when I come out.
    • Another example Anna was one of the few good angels before she was captured and tortured by other angels. She describes it as the same torture as hell, but twice the self-righteousness. She comes out of it a little crazy and is now fighting against Sam and Dean, but comes off as a Well-Intentioned Extremist.
    • It also happens to Castiel in the Season 4 episode "The Rapture." When his angel superiors realize he intends to alert Dean that killing Lilith is the last seal and the angels actually want the apocalypse, he is taken by force from Jimmy Novak's body. Anna heavily implies he's being tortured, and when he returns to Jimmy's body, he coldly tells Dean he serves Heaven and not man. A few episodes later he undergoes a Heel–Face Turn and tells Dean the truth, though it is too late to stop Sam from killing Lilith.
  • Gray in the Torchwood Series 2 finale. Jack lost him while fleeing some very evil aliens who captured and tortured him for years and years. He survived with no conscience and a mega-sized grudge against his big brother for failing him. So he killed a lot of people.

  • Tripod's "Suicide Bomber" is somewhere between this and Then Let Me Be Evil. The singer is repeatedly tortured in an unsuccessful attempt to make him confess to a bombing he didn't commit. By the end, he's patiently awaiting his release so he can suicide bomb a bus, knowing full well that another innocent person will probably be tortured and made to confess to the crime. (This is completely Played for Laughs.)

    Myths & Religion 
  • Japanese Mythology:
    • The Japanese inugami: In the process of creating it, the summoner (called an inugami-mochi) is said to literally torture a dog not only to death but also post-mortem. This creates a powerful entity that can be forged into a loyal servant willing and able to commit any kind of sin on its creator/master's behalf up to and including murder, curses, or bodily possession — at least, so long as you maintain and retain its mummified head and "don't seriously mistreat it". Would-be inugami-mochi should beware though: as powerful, anger-prone spirits they have a tendency to pull a sometimes very literal The Dog Bites Back... and for obvious reasons, the Japanese government as far back as the Heian period outlawed the practice, complete with permanent shunning for anybody even suspected of having tried to use it against another person, a punishment including continued shunning of any and all of the suspected inugami-mochi's future children. Little wonder that these sorcerers were said to be "secretive".
    • Thanks to some of the beliefs of Shinto and Buddhism, a number of Japanese ghost stories feature elements of this; the difference being that it's not just bodies that can be tortured, as a soul, too, can be driven to downright malicious madness that lasts even after death; often this is caused by the horrific circumstances of the death itself.
  • Norse Mythology: Loki, the shapeshifting god of the hearthfire, starts out as a trickster who causes mischief and chaos, albeit he also occasionally gets the Asgard gods out of a tight corner (which usually he himself got them into). When he manipulates Hodr into killing Baldur out of jealousy, and makes sure that Baldur stays dead, Loki is finally treading on very thin ice with the gods. Loki then crashes into a party and starts angrily taunting the assembled deities, insulting several of them with sarcastic banter and bragging about bedding many of the goddesses while their husbands were away. Realizing he has finally pushed them way past their rage-breaking point, Loki flees. When he is captured, the gods transform one of Loki's sons into a raging wolf who tears the other son apart, then they use the sons' entrails as chains to bind Loki to a boulder in a cave until he couldn't move, and hang a poisonous snake over his exposed face that drools poison into Loki's eyes. He manages to free himself in time for Ragnarök, joining the tribes of giants, his own monstrous children, and the ship of the dead that came sailing from Helheim in their battle against the gods of Asgard.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Chronicles of Darkness:
    • In Changeling: The Lost, The True Fae are sociopathic monsters incapable of compassion. They reproduce by abducting humans from the real world, (usually) subject them to constant, brutal, horrific tortures, and then once the last bit of their humanity is stripped away, they become True Fae.
    • Leviathan: The Tempest: Anyone who suffers a Breaking Point within a Leviathan's Wake may become a Beloved, the Wake reshaping their mind to make them fanatically devoted to the Leviathan. However, if the person who breaks specifically hates the Leviathan they may instead become an Ahab, so using this tactic is not without its risks even aside from the moral implications.
    • Very much doable in Princess: The Hopeful. Suffering a Breaking Point (which torture could very easily produce) while in a Tainted Place will let the Darkness infect you. Initially, this only makes you a Darkened (who have several effects pushing them towards evil but still have vestiges of conscience), but pushing a Darkened to lose their last dot of Integrity will result in them dying and being reborn as a bestial (and wholly evil) Darkspawn. Of course, the new Darkspawn will probably hate their torturer with the fury of a thousand suns... unless the torturer happens to have one of the dark powers that lets them enthrall Darkspawn into devoted servants.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, torture in Hell makes bad people worse — after some time they hate their tormentors so deeply that the last remains of their humanity snap and they start to transform into bottom-rank devils themselves.
    • In Forgotten Realms one of the Red Wizards' nastiest weapons are the "Chosen Ones" — normal people (usually stubborn slaves) who were forced to undergo excruciating transformation, and when ordered to fight they are deluded to see the foe as the one who transformed them. They aren't used en masse because they frequently slip out of control, stop mid-strike and run away, to find the real wizard whom they want to shred.
    • The Iron Ring, a slave-trading secret society from the Mystara setting, acquires its Mooks via this trope, torturing people they've taken captive until they're reduced to mindless berserkers. Such "Hounds" are virtually incapable of coherent thought, retaining just enough wits to cringe before their captors' whips, that herd them into battle.
    • The 5th Edition Monster Manual states that the Hellish Horses known as "Nightmares" aren't naturally occurring anywhere in the multiverse. Instead they are created by evil beings who capture a live Pegasus and subject it to a humiliating ritual that involves painfully amputating its wings and twisting its mind to evil with dark magic.
  • Kindred of the East: Your average Kuei-jin 1) were tossed to hell, where they suffered from constant torment, then 2) crawl back to the world of the living to do some unfinished business, and 3) have their lower soul constantly agitated due to their time being tormented in hell. Is it a wonder that most of them turn into cannibal ghouls, and are just one step away from turning into One-Winged Angel even in their most collected moments?
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Covens of Warpsmiths attempt to increase the number of Renegade Knights by capturing and torturing lone Imperial Knights, especially Freeblades, until they either die or turn to Chaos.
    • The Brothers of the Anvil were a Space Marine chapter captured by a Dark Eldar army and dragged to Commorragh. A year spent inside its nightmarish arenas and torture chambers broke them utterly and, since escaping and renaming themselves the Deathmongers, they have done nothing but kill everything they encounter.

    Video Games 
  • In Batman: Arkham Knight, while not "evil" per se, Jason Todd is tortured for a year by the Joker and this eventually turns him into the Arkham Knight. Subverted slightly as he doesn't become a complete villain and still cares about the rest of the Bat Family, but certainly a different take than how he became Red Hood in the comics.
  • BioShock Infinite: Near the end of the game, Booker is sent to a Bad Future where years of torture and psychological conditioning have rendered Elizabeth so afraid of Comstock that she cannot bring herself to defy him even decades after his death. Instead, she becomes his successor and carries out his plan to purify "the Sodom below" by destroying New York City. However, she does feel guilty enough to give Booker a message for her past self that she hopes will Set Right What Once Went Wrong.
  • Call of Duty: Ghosts has Rorke, a former Ghost who was captured and tortured by the Federation, turning him into their best assassin and soldier whose primary focus is hunting down his former comrades, especially his former commanding officer, who Rorke believes betrayed him. Come the end of the game, he captures the main protagonist to attempt to do the same to him.
  • Cave Story Apparently, the difficult-path ending boss used to be a real nice guy... until someone got jealous of him and decided to torture him for a while. Now... well... He's... not so nice anymore. Though it's not so much that he lost his morals as that he lost his self-control. He even wants you to kill him.
  • In Demonheart, certain demonic characters have been tortured from birth, making them utterly deranged. Sir Brash was also tortured when Rivera first captured him, and while he was never truly noble to begin with and his courage mostly came from his newly obtained demonic heart, his mistreatment may have played a role in him becoming a rampaging, murderous beast, leading to his recruitment by the evil knights of Scarcewall.
  • Diablo
    • In the backstory, the angel Izual was captured by the forces of evil and tortured until he became evil. After you kill him he reveals that he was Evil All Along, and was the one who kicked off the 'Soul Stone' thing with the direct intention of helping The Three.
    • In Diablo III this is inverted with the Templar recruiting process. Criminals are tortured for days to purge them of their memories and sinful impulses, turning them into noble champions. Kormac eventually unlocks his buried memories and learns he was a good man before joining the Templars; the torture merely made him unquestioningly loyal to their orders.
    • Inarius, the angel who created Sanctuary alongside the demon Lilith and fathered the Nephalem, was cast out of the High Heavens for the crime of stealing the Worldstone and laying with a demon and given over to Mephisto as a peace offering. The Lord of Hatred tortured Inarius for eons until the angel eventually escaped the Burning Hells and returned to Sanctuary. Since his return, Inarius founded a church dedicated to worshiping him as humanity's savior, when in reality he has come to despise his creations and would happily destroy the entire world if it meant his redemption and return to Heaven.
      Mephisto: The angel was already filled with hate when he became my prisoner. All I did was refine his anger.
  • Corvus from Dragon Quest IX was a nice guy... before being betrayed by his lover, captured by The Empire and spending 300 years in prison, every limb chained and his energy being drained to maintain The Empire's magic. He was a little angry at the world in general after that.
  • Dragon Age
    • Broodmothers from Dragon Age: Origins were once regular females before going through a sickening creation process that involves them screaming out of control for a day straight, having Darkspawn vomit into the mouths of said females, and Darkspawn gang-raping them. Then they get force-fed the flesh of their own species. Near the end of the process, the women willingly and eagerly tear apart their former loved ones and devour them with relish. Not long after that, they become full-fledged Broodmothers.
    • Although he's not exactly "evil", this is a lot of how Fenris from Dragon Age II got the way he is. After being put through a ritual that burned Lyrium into his skin, one that was so mentally scarring he's forgotten his entire life up to that point, and his Tevinter Magister master being indescribably petty and cruel, he's turned into a brooding, skulking mess of a man. That doesn't stop the ladies from squealing over him... Or the menfolk.
    • Anders gets this as well. Even in Awakening, before he was possessed by a corrupted Spirit of Justice and started hanging out next to a literal hellmouth in Kirkwall, one gets the impression that the seven escape attempts from the Circle of Magi weren't just because the guy wanted some fresh air. Supplemental material (codexes and excerpts from The World of Thedas books) confirm they weren't. Anders was actually complacent in the Circle for a while until until he fell in love with Karl, a fellow mage in the Ferelden Circle, but when the Templars found out they sent Karl away to the Kirkwall Circle to psychologically break Anders. It worked. After Karl got sent away, Anders started his seven-plus escape attempts.
    • Cullen got hit with this too. In the first game, he starts off as a nice, personable, romantically shy young man who sympathized with mages. After being imprisoned and tortured for weeks on end by demons summoned by a handful of blood mages, he becomes convinced that all mages are walking abominations waiting to happen and fanatically advocates slaughtering them all. So he got transferred to the literal hellmouth in Kirkwall and became the right-hand to the tyrannical Knight-Commander Meredith. (To the point that if Hawke comes to him with proof that a fellow Templar has been illegally rendering mages Tranquil, Cullen agrees that they should be using the practice more widely.) By the third game, he has quit the Templars but remains distrustful of mages, and his past of helping Meredith abuse, torture, put in solitary confinement, cover up sexual abuse, illegally lobotomize, and randomly murder mages over the pettiest offenses for a decade is handwaved as just the result of trauma from his torture.
  • Dungeon Keeper game:
    • In the first game, you can torture captured heroes into joining your side. As long as you're careful not to kill them (which turns them into fairly mediocre Ghosts), anyone will break eventually... This even includes the Avatar, although it takes a very long time. However, since the Avatar is supposed to come back when you kill him, if you don't and convert him then his also good twin shows up to fight you.
    • It works the same way in the sequel, though torturing your enemies to death now causes them to reveal map information to you instead of turning into Ghosts.
  • Fate/stay night: Angra Mainyu became a being filled with absolute hatred for humankind after a lifetime of being tortured by his own village, all because they had chosen him at random to be "The Source of All Evil". Should the Holy Grail War be seen through to the end, his corrupting influence on the Grail will lead to him being unleashed upon Earth, an act that could very well lead to mankind's extinction. In Fate/hollow ataraxia, however, the influence of both the Holy Grail and Shirou leads to him finding some peace, despite everything.
  • Kratos' younger brother, Deimos, from God of War: Ghost of Sparta. When the gods kidnapped him as a child, he was left at the hands of God of Death, Thanatos. Whatever the death god was doing to him, Deimos had to suffer through it for many years until adulthood. As a result, he grew an unbearable hatred for Kratos, vowing revenge on him for not saving him.
  • Jak from Jak and Daxter goes halfway there by going from Wide-Eyed Idealist to cynic Anti-Hero with a Superpowered Evil Side. While he was not tortured for the sake of torture, he was subject to two years of Dark Eco experimentation, pumping him full of the stuff, in the Baron's attempts to create a Super-Soldier. Dark Eco tends to have some really nasty effects on people exposed to it, ranging from insanity to outright killing a person.
  • The (Japanese) novel for Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep seems to imply this is what happened with Vanitas.
  • Star Wars games:
    • Knights of the Old Republic: Malak turns Bastila to The Dark Side... by hitting her repeatedly with Force Lightning. Makes you wonder if The Emperor was trying to duplicate that stunt at the end of Return of the Jedi.
      Malak: No, you misunderstand. This is but a taste of the Dark Side, to whet your appetite.
    • Torture is a standard method for Sith "converting" light-side Jedi, as mentioned in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords and shown in other parts of Star Wars Legends. It's a good way to crack a Jedi's emotional control, getting them angry and setting them at the top of the slippery slope.
    • Star Wars: The Old Republic continues the tradition with a Republic quest on Nar Shaddaa, where the protagonist is tasked with going into a top security Imperial prison to free a beloved Jedi war hero from the last war. He turns out to be the one running the prison. A heavily corrupted Jedi-turned-Sith who deals out torturous punishments and executions like candy, he became a Straw Nihilist when he saw men in the prison crack under torture and starvation, and loathes the Republic for its "weakness" in failing to let the Empire do such unspeakably monstrous things. So he serves the Empire in doing such monstrous things, as you do.
    • Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order confirms that this is still true in the Continuity Reboot. Many of the Inquisitors were former Jedi Knights or Padawans who were turned to the Dark Side through torture.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Being kidnapped, tortured, and experimented on from infancy by Cerberus turned Jack into the most powerful human biotic ever. It also turned her into a homicidal ball of rage, who one wrong move could set off at any moment. Under Shepard's influence, she can greatly improve and become a genuinely heroic person, though she still holds onto her Blood Knight tendencies, especially when Cerberus is around.
      Jack: They thought they were so clever. Turns out, mess with someone's head enough and you can turn a scared little kid into an all-powerful bitch. Fucking idiots!
    • Mass Effect: Andromeda gives us Aksum, an angaara who was once a brilliant and curious student of Remnant technology, until the Kett kidnapped him, tortured him, and held him in a labor camp for over a year. This turned him into an Absolute Xenophobe who hates even friendly aliens like the Milky Way species. He forms a terrorist group called Roekarr which attempts multiple times to inflict genocide on all non angaara. He crosses the Moral Event Horizon in the eyes of many angaara, including his former best friend Jaal when he starts ranting about even eliminating angaara who aren’t xenophobic — and then tries to kill Jaal.
  • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots has The B&B Corps, civilian women who've been driven insane by the horrors of warfare, and undergone transformation into super soldiers in the misguided belief that fighting will ease their trauma. Each one plays the trope in a slightly different way:
    • Laughing Octopus both plays it straight and inverts it; she was kidnapped by a cult and forced to torture her family and friends to death, and said cult also forced her to react as though she took sadistic amusement in their suffering when committing the action.
    • Raging Raven plays it completely straight; she was locked in a cage and tortured for the amusement of a band of soldiers until she came to hate the world, and when she was finally freed by the sheer luck of the ravens' pecking killing the ropes faster than her life, she went on an Unstoppable Rage.
    • Crying Wolf was left traumatized when her family (except her and her baby brother) were slaughtered in an ethnic cleansing. To make matters worse, while hiding from some soldiers who were hunting her, she accidentally smothered her brother rather than let his crying draw the soldiers to her location. And THEN she found a refugee camp, which promptly disposed of the rotting corpse of her brother that she lugged around. One Axe-Crazy fit later, and she had murdered them all in their sleep.
    • Screaming Mantis is a slight variation; she was locked in a basement beneath a torture chamber, and driven insane by the sound of screams echoing above her. The kicker? The chamber housed the dead corpses of torture victims. She had to eat them to survive.
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain: Kaz is no longer the peppy Team Dad after nine years, two amputated limbs, and cataracts.
  • Saavedro from Myst III: Exile was tied to a post, severely beaten, and was left on several small islands for 20 years, while believing that his family, nay, his entire world was dead. His mind is...not where it used to be, as evidenced by passages in his journal detailing how much he had forgotten and how desperate he was for revenge.
  • Aribeth in Neverwinter Nights turned to the dark side following some pretty severe psychological torture (read Mind Rape).
  • In Octopath Traveler II, this ends up happening to whichever one of Ochette's possible animal companions you didn't choose at the start of the game. Petrichor captures it and gives it to Harvey, who proceeds to experiment horrifically on it for ten years. By the time Ochette sees it again, it's extremely aggressive and is by far the biggest threat to Toto'haha during the Night of the Scarlet Moon, being her final boss. Its limited dialogue even consists of espousing the same views as the local nihilistic cult.
  • This is pretty much word-for-word the backstory for Widowmaker in Overwatch. She was kidnapped by Talon agents and tortured/brainwashed until they literally "broke her will, suppressed her personality, and reprogrammed her as a sleeper agent."
  • Prayer of the Faithless: When the Forsaken Fortress is taken over by Miasma monsters, one of the rooms contains a monster along with two crucified Manna. The Manna were tortured into helping the monster, to the point where even if the party manages to kill the monster first, the Manna will still continue fighting the party. As a result, the party has no choice but to Mercy Kill them.
  • Skullgirls:
    • Lab Zero did their best to do this with Painwheel. In both her and Filia's ending, it doesn't stick. She breaks free in the former, and is saved by Filia's wish for her to have a normal life in the latter.
    • This is also explained as the origin story for Peacock... sort of. She went totally psycho after enduring gruesome, horrible torture, but never joins up with her tormentors. She has a decidedly heroic role, though she favors violent methods.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • The Lich King tries to torture Bolvar Fordragon after capturing; It doesn't work, and Bolvar actually ends up replacing him.
    • Played absolutely straight with Sylvannas Windrunner however. After he mutilated her body, defiled her spirit, killed her, and raised her back as a banshee and then turned her on her own homeland and people, since she has regained her body and her free will she has gradually become everything she fought against in Arthas in so many ways, becoming more and more irredeemable with each atrocity. The breaking point was being sent to The Maw for committing suicide. The torture and realization that anyone could get sent to The Maw drove her completely psychopathic, and she made a deal with The Maw's jailer for freedom and power in exchange for sending everyone there with her.
    • After a long questchain in Coldarra Keristrasza is taken captive by Malygos and forced to become his consort as a replacement for Saragosa who Keristrasza and the player character had killed. The players then Mercy Kill her after she's proven herself too insane to be saved from death and too much of a threat to be allowed to live, because going on a mass murdering rampage was a likely outcome.
    • Partly played straight with Maiev Shadowsong after her capture and torture at the hands of Illidan Stormrage. While she does go crazy and start metting out her own brand of justice, the torture is only the last straw that takes her over the edge of sanity. Although she gets somewhat better later on.
    • It turns out that after Sargeras killed the rest of the Titans, he captured their souls and has spent millennia torturing them in an attempt to create his own Dark Pantheon. He succeeded with Aggramar and the rest have nearly given in.
    • Argus was tortured for eons and was finally driven insane at the moment his soul was taken to the Seat of the Pantheon.
  • In Yandere Simulator, you can kidnap a female student and then torture them every night to remove their sanity. When it's at 0%, they will not act or talk for themselves, but you can bring them to school and order them to kill any one student, after which they'll regain just enough sanity to end themselves, right on top of their victim's body.

  • The seven demonic Dire Unicorns in The Daemonslayers (found here, including Blackjack's somewhat loyal mount and unicorn/dragon hybrid Knightmare, were all once pure and noble unicorns. When they were captured by the Demon Queen, Shine, and her minions, they were horribly tortured and corrupted with her dark magic into twisted beings who could no longer remember their names and former lives. The only unicorn who still retained much of his former self was Frenzy. Unfortunately, since the universe he inhabits is such an awful place to live in that it happily wishes to screw, torture, and maim any decent being that lives in it, he is cursed with a blood-red mist that is like a Hate Plague to anyone who breathes it. Because he remembers his former life, Frenzy is the most peaceful of the dire unicorns, yet seeing the effects time and again of the horrible curse of rage and destruction that travels with him caused him to slowly lose his mind and is now quite insane.
  • A variant in Goblins existed with the Fat Guard's plan. He believed that sufficient torture could turn powerful, but largely non-aggressive, monsters into killing machines that could be used to defend Brassmoon. When he released it, he found to his dismay that only the first part had worked.
  • The Water Phoenix King: Prince Thrale was thoroughly tortured into insanity, and developed an insatiable urge to cause as much death and gore as humanly possible.

    Web Original 
  • In Addergoole a lot of the worst Keepers are those who were abused when they were Kept previously.
  • While Nights of AJCO was hardly a saint to begin with, following the psychological torture she suffered during the Silo arc she lost her only redeeming feature — her love for the Castle Crew. And then when she tried to reclaim power by threatening Breyos, he injected her with deadly spider venom and left her to die. She's now completely broken and loyal to AJCO. At least for now.
  • Done successfully to Incorruptible Pure Pureness in Broken Saints. Justified in that said character is an empath, and the torture was simply necessary to turn her into a conduit for negative emotion. Not that that makes any of the torture less disturbing.
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, Omaroch, Kaizoku, Tanya, and Izael end up captured by their enemies who turn them on their side with a combination of torture and mind-rape.
  • Pretending to Be People has a strange case of accidental self-inflicted torture doing this. Keith Vigna casts a spell that forces his body to "heal" by expelling all of its cybernetic parts. This gives Keith the last push over the line into going back in time, murdering Silas Cole, and taking his place.
  • In The Spoony Experiment, Spoony recounts the time his Vampire: The Requiem LARP character was captured and tortured into joining the Lancea Sanctum and does the horrible things they tell him to. For the first session. Pissed off they tried to forcibly take over his character, Spoony decided to fight back, used his massive chemistry score to make a bathtub full of Semtex, sneaked it into the Vampire Prince's sanctum without anyone noticing, then went to his car and used the detonator. If not for GM fiat, Spoony would have leveled the building and taken with it the head of the oppressive vampire hierarchy. (Just for reference, this is a LARP, there was no actual Semtex or detonators, just index cards that say that).

    Western Animation 
  • Hama, an old lady the protagonists encounter late in Avatar: The Last Airbender, was a waterbender in the Southern Water Tribe who through years of attrition, desperation, a cruel prison, lack of access to her element, and discovering a technique that warped her, went from apparently normal and friendly to someone who appeared friendly but happily abducted and imprisoned random civilians of her torturers' Nation and quickly turned against the nice Water Tribe kids who objected to her.
  • A similar situation occurs in The Batman when Ethan Bennet is tortured and driven insane by the Joker, and the chemicals used on him turn him into Clayface. Determined to kill the Joker, he didn't care who got in the way. Fortunately, he redeemed himself.
  • Subverted in Disenchantment in Faster, Princess! Kill! Kill! when Bean meets the grown-up, insane, cannibalistic, and heavily-implied-to-be incestuous Hansel and Gretel who still live in the Witch's candy house. She urges them to turn themselves in, pointing out that the Witch has been taken into custody and that everyone will forgive them for their crimes since they were turned evil by years of torture. They bluntly tell her they were always crazy and that they in fact cursed the Witch, who is actually a kindly old lady who adopted them.
    Bean: Everyone will understand why you went crazy after the witch imprisoned you for so many years!
    Gretel: Oh, we were crazy long before we met the witch.
    Bean: And then the witch kidnapped you?
    Hansel: Nein, she adopted us und gave us candy. But not enough. So we tied her to the sink and started eating people.
  • Shockingly enough for a Disney cartoon series ostensibly aimed at kids, TRON: Uprising goes here in "Scars." While Tron's torture at the hands of Dyson didn't completely turn him to the dark side, it's coming pretty close And probably helps Clu twist him into "Rinzler" later — to the point where he tries to kill Beck for intervening in his Roaring Rampage of Revenge.


Video Example(s):


Zane's Face Heel Turn

Zane finally snaps under the electric torture of an underground duel and becomes his new ruthless self.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / FreakOut

Media sources: